What begins as a bland, fairy-tale romance between toned and tan blue-eyed teenagers becomes an emotional grapple over morals and the consequences of teenage sex.
What an exciting 16th birthday for protagonist Miranda: She goes to a concert, dances with a hottie, gives him her number and–OMG!–he calls the next day. She and Keith start dating, and he's everything she ever wanted: sexy, kind, sensitive, trustworthy. Miranda, though, dated a football player during her freshman and sophomore years and now regrets it. The rest of the football team harasses her about her history, but compassionate Keith stands by her. They take things slow, but eventually have sex–unprotected sex, despite the recent drama over Miranda's best friend's sister's unplanned pregnancy, a fate that will befall Miranda as well. She's subsequently physically assaulted by a football player, sending her spiraling emotionally and mentally downward. The author stops just short of pushing a finger-wagging, just-say-no morality lesson, while laying out worst-case-scenarios that all point back to teenage sex. An anti-abortion message is implied, though Miranda's eventual decision to have an abortion is depicted with realistic complexity. There's nary a mention of sexually transmitted diseases. Perhaps that's for a sequel.
Taylor is a fine writer, despite a lack of subtlety and nuance, and the story of Keith and Miranda is well-grounded in reality: It's not always happily ever after.